Smaller Companies vs Large bureaucratic places

Does anyone here have insights into the difference between working for a large company vs a smaller one? I work at a large company and it feels like a lot of people are just cogs in a machine-coast by, get the paycheck and go home is the vibe, but people often do very specific things without much understanding of what other departments are doing.

How different could I expect going to a smaller company be? To me it seems like there would be a wider variety of work and more exposure, but less ability to just coast by since each employee in a smaller organization would by default matter more, though that could be a good thing, depending on how you look at it. I’m guessing politics are more prevalent as far as moving up, and pay is (perhaps) lower, but not sure there. Are my presumptions correct in general?

It depends tremendously upon the manager(s). I worked for a large company where the managers tended to treat everyone the way they would want to be treated, balancing goals with encouragement. I worked for a small company and for a medium-sized company where all they cared about was making money, treated staff like cattle.

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Force-marched them to Dodge City?

No, but the medium-sized company forced double-overtime for most staff. They went under within the next year. Good riddance!

Were they hoping to be acquired? Sometimes such a company will try to raise their value in a hurry to get a better price.

They had been acquired in a deal that left them hopelessly in debt. :frowning:

OK, interesting answer.
Anyone else care to comment?

That sounds amazing, are you hiring?

In my career I’ve worked for:

  • Tiny company
  • Mid-sized company which I left when it was acquired
  • Huge company
  • Mid-sized company that had problems and was being cleaned up
  • Large company that acquired the prior mid-sized company
  • A mid-large company that was acquired by the large company

My sense is that larger companies are more prone to bureaucracy than smaller company, but the coefficients of variation are HUGE, and an employee’s perception of the bureaucracy will be influenced by management above the employee.

The three most bureaucratic experiences I’ve had have been (rank-ordered from most to least):

  • Mid-large company that I’m currently loaned out to
  • Huge company
  • The mid-sized company in second position

The least bureaucratic experience I had was “mid-sized company that had problems and was being cleaned up”…but I’m biased because I was hired as part of the cleanup team, where instruction from the top was “don’t stand on formality or job titles; just get it done”. In the early days, we were perhaps a little too uncontrolled, and gradually some controls and bureaucracy were imposed…but man, were those early days fun.

The bureaucracy I’m currently dealing with might be one more of my perception rather than reality. I’ve spent much of my career functioning as an independent contributor (either officially or de facto)…and I’ve been plugged into a large team. They’re nice people, and they’re functioning in a regulatory environment that promotes controls and thus bureaucracy…but it’s more bureaucracy than I’m used to, and that might be biasing my views.

I was referring more to the use of “cattle.”

Based off on indeed yes lol, but we are not P&C

Agree with this.

Have worked in very large organisations with just awful hierarchical structures (you feel like a cog in the machine) vs ones that were not (so you ended up being able to diversify work-wise). Totally dependent on the manager, which is also a function of how the company is managed.

The main drawback of smaller organisations is that just one person in a position of influence can cause wide-scale damage if they are a bit dysfunctional. This tends to be much harder in larger organisations as they do not have the same amount of influence due to the more segmented nature of the business (so delegation would be necessary).

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i always felt a small company was the equivalent of a department in a large company. The dynamics and interactions are basically the same

I’ve only ever worked at large companies, but there is a wide variety of large companies.

Are you a mostly independly run subsidiary that happens to be owned by a larger company? Is the subdivision of the company you work in large or small? E.g. could be a big insurance company with a much smaller reinsurance group that you work within. Is there a very established actuarial development program with scheduled rotationd and standard promotion schedule? Or is the study program just focused on exams and raised but career development and promotions are more free for all? What is the management style of the people towards the top of the pyramid?

I never worked at the “cog in the machine” type companies, despite only working for pretty large companies. (That isn’t to say that some of those companies didn’t have their own issues.) But talking to others, it does sound like other large companies operate that way.

Two companies I worked for were large but with foreign parent companies, the domestic companies were more mid-sized if you looked at them standalone. And at one of those two companies, I worked for a particular subgroup of the company that operated more or less independently, so it felt sort of like a small company with the support of the multinational company’s resources. Then I worked at one mega sized consulting company but within a very small specialized team. We interacted often with the rest of the company, but it didn’t really feel “cog in the machine” because there were only 10 of us or whatever doing this one type of work and always busy and handling projects end to end. We weren’t doing a task that was part of or in support of some other departments’ larger tasks - we had our own product we had to deliver.

It is a large company, known for being pretty beaurocratic, with the standard rotations and promotions tied partially to exams and Y.O.E and such.

I feel like I am just there to do shitty button pusher production work. During the main quarterly crunch there is one week where I probably work 60-70 hours, and a couple normal full weeks surrounding that. Outside of that I feel like I am working 10-15 hours, sometimes literally 0 in terms of actual work that’s not email or something.

When I’ve asked to get put on more projects it never happened, and I find it difficult to be engaged. When I’ve interviewed for other jobs and sometimes they ask me things like “how does the company make money” or “did you ever see any odd results due to an inverted yield curve” I never had a good answer, because I feel like I’m not really seeing the forest through the trees.

I guess my advice would be you can certainly look for new positions, but you may not need to limit yourself to small companies (which likely have their own issues). There are large and mid-sized companies where you won’t have this problem.

I do tend to think the ones with really large, organized rotation programs may be more likely to have this problem. While I have worked at large companies, not had super organized rotation programs. They’d allow and sometimes encourage department transfers but you either had to go out of your way to ask for it, or it depended on if an opening came up and a rotation wasn’t guaranteed at a set time frame. Rotational programs can be good but those are also the companies that likely have the jobs more automated so that someone can quickly be trained and it won’t cause issues if they rotate out after a year. Efficiency is good but I can see how sometimes you could end up in a “just clicking buttons” or “just running the reports” scenario in cases like that. *On the flip side, in theory, rotation programs should help you see many sides of the company and give you a wider perspective, but that’s only the ideal and I get that reality can look different.)

What do you think are the likely issues with small companies?

It’s hard to say how my experience compares to other students at the company because people will always try to upsell the work they do when you ask them about it. It could just be that my rotations haven’t been great, but hard to say